Monday, June 16, 2014

Battle Hymns: A Novel by Cara Langston

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Read: April 23, 2014

In December 1941, Charlotte Donahue is engaged to Nick Adler, a handsome, pre-law student at Georgetown University. Despite her studies at a liberal arts college, she expects nothing more than to marry her fiancé and settle into a conventional life as a young American homemaker. But her future is unexpectedly disrupted after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. While Nick trains for the battlefront with the U.S. Army, Charlotte does her part by volunteering as a nurses’ aide with the American Red Cross. Assigned to a convalescent ward at Walter Reed’s Army Medical Center, Charlotte discovers her passion lies, not in the home, but in tending to the wounds of injured soldiers, all of whom remind her of Nick. Here she is drawn to a mysterious soldier, Lieutenant William Kendrick, whose jet was shot down in the skies over Germany. As Will’s physical and psychological wounds begin to heal, he and Charlotte develop a friendship that will bind them together in ways they never imagined. Battle Hymns is a poignant story of love, survival, and redemption set against the backdrop of the Second World War.

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In terms of a wartime romance, Cara Langston's Battle Hymns is exactly what I expected. I'll be the first to admit there is a certain predictability to the plot, but I found Langston's treatment of the material and the themes she incorporates into the story balanced the more typical elements of the narrative, ultimately transforming it into something both memorable and moving. 

Charlotte in particular stands out to me. A volunteer nurse, she joins the war effort in order to keep busy, but discovers a tangible passion for the profession. This personal journey, her growing self-awareness, wasn't something I'd anticipated, but I really liked the contrast it brought to the larger story. Like a phoenix, Charlotte finds strength and rises from the ashes of the conflict in a beautiful display of fortitude and perseverance.

Parallel to John and Will, Charlotte carries wounds that will never truly heal, but here again Langston managed to surprise me. Set in an age before PTSD was understood or really even acknowledged, the author took great pains to illustrate how varied the disorder can be. I've seen authors struggle with this, too often defining the condition by the extremes, which is why I sincerely appreciated Langston's more intuitive handling of the material.

Peppered with authentic detail, Battle Hymns is an eloquent historical that offers rare insight to the intimacies of lives touched by conflict. A poignant debut that holds much promise for Langston's future efforts.  

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But try as they may, it was impossible for anyone to forget the war. Life couldn’t return to what it had been five years earlier. The conflict affected them all, not one soul left untouched. They were, after all, years of sacrifice. John gave up four years of his life and the comforts of home. Charlotte offered her naivety, and Will his psychological stability. They were years she would never forget, ones that would affect her for the rest of her life.
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Check Out All the Stops on Cara Langston's Battle Hymns Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, June 2
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, June 3
Review at Booktalk & More
Wednesday, June 4
Review at Closed the Cover
Thursday, June 5
Interview at Closed the Cover
Monday, June 9
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Tuesday, June 10
Review at Lit Nerd
Wednesday, June 11
Interview at Lit Nerd
Friday, June 13
Review at History Undressed
Sunday, June 15
Review at History from a Woman’s Perspective
Monday, June 16
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, June 17
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, June 18
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Interview at Layered Pages
Friday, June 20
Spotlight at Too Fond Beth

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